This may sound crazy, but we really believe that until we learn what it is to love you, for you to love us, and what it is for us together to be loved by God and to love others, there will always be more for us to learn about what we believe.
We welcome all persons who are willing to have more questions than answers and who feel called to accept Jesus’ invitation to journey with us. In fact all God’s children, regardless of race, ethnicity, age, gender identity, political affiliation, physical or mental capacity, education, sexual orientation, nationality, socioeconomic or marital status or previous faith experience are encouraged to join us as we find the Way together.
It’s important to say at this point that we’re not the ones who have “finally gotten this whole faith thing figured out.” We are simply and powerfully drawn to the love of the Trinity--the community of love that is the Living God; traditionally Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. This love is made most real in the life and teachings of Jesus of Nazareth who called this journey of faith together, the Way.
We don’t always agree, but we are experimenting, and sometimes failing, and building a church that collectively follows the Way of Jesus. However, the one thing we are certain of is that the Way of Jesus is first and last loving and being loved, so we are trying hard to build a community of love and hope that is a blessing to God, our neighbors and each other.
The Way of Jesus’ love is a lifestyle of holistic healing for individuals, families, neighborhoods, nations and the earth. It is a gift from God, which comes with some assembly required. To follow Jesus’ Way is to open our hearts and trust the Spirit leading down a countercultural road of relentless forgiveness, radical acceptance, nonviolent peacemaking, abundant generosity, vital worship, compassion for the Creation, searching prayer, sacrificial love and quiet joy.
We also agree this kind of community of love and hope is what the world most needs at this transitional moment in our history. And we think the world is tired of religious people who claim to believe a list of ideas when those very ideas don’t translate into any kind of personal or communal transformation. Plus, we see belief as something that is lived out in community, which doesn’t translate well into a few paragraphs on a website.
Salvation is not a reward for filling in the right theological answers on a final exam or even good behavior, but salvation is the word that best describes the experience of God in an ongoing covenantal relationship. It is opening our hearts to trust the Spirit in loving others and ourselves because we are first loved by God. So faith is not even about finally understanding, it is about union with God, which simply ‘is’ because of Jesus.
Matthew 25 Congregation
Pine Ridge Presbyterian Church is excited to join the Matthew 25 Church movement. As our congregation moves more toward inclusion, racial reconciliation and following Jesus' example of love and service, we join other Presbyterian churches in the KC area and across the country that, “are called to act boldly and compassionately to serve people who are hungry, oppressed, imprisoned and poor.” Particularly in this transformative moment we, “are uniting in common mission with Presbyterians to become a more relevant presence in the world.”
We affirm the statement of J. Herbert Nelson, Stated Clerk of the General Assembly of the PC(USA).
Following are various resources and recommendations on anti-racism compiled from a variety of sources. Each list is in no way complete, it is a starting point. Additions will be coming and recommendations are wanted. Updates will be provided every few weeks. If you come across something you'd like to see added to the resources, please send it to Wendy Barth at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Books on Anti-Racism
Resources for Parents
What to Watch
Why We Say: Presbyterians Affirm Black Lives MatterWhy are we saying that “Presbyterians Affirm Black Lives Matter”?
Simply put: because Black lives do indeed matter. They/we matter to God, which means they/we should matter to God’s people.
Facing Racism: A Vision of the Intercultural Community, the PC(USA) Churchwide Antiracism Policy, first adopted in 1999 and revised in 2016, proclaims the following:
“While recognizing that racism victimizes many different racial ethnic groups, we acknowledge its unique impact on the African American community. Given the particular forms that anti-Black racism has taken in the United States of America both historically (including slavery and Jim Crow) and today (including mass incarceration, disproportionate policing, economic inequality, and continuing acts of racially oriented violence and hate), we state clearly: GOD LOVES BLACKNESS. Too many have denied this basic truth for too long. Our choice to align ourselves with love and not hate requires both a rejection of racism and a positive proclamation that God delights in Black lives.”
But don’t all lives matter?
Saying unequivocally that “Black Lives Matter” in no way means that all lives do not matter. It is rather an acknowledgment that many lives – specifically Black lives – are systemically devalued. As a community that tries to follow Jesus, we proclaim that such a devaluation of our siblings is an affront to the Living God. The Confession of Belhar reminds us “that God, in a world full of injustice and enmity, is in a special way the God of the destitute, the poor and the wronged.” Specificity toward Black lives is necessary, particularly in this moment, so that we may acknowledge and address the inequities that prevent the whole community from living as if all lives matter.
Does that mean we are claiming affiliation with the Black Lives Matter organization?
As an organization, the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) has no affiliation or official status with the Black Lives Matter Movement. Presbyterians across the country are members of Black Lives Matter Global Network chapters, and many congregations actively support BLM efforts in their local communities.
I’m sorry, but I just cannot agree with supporting the Black Lives Matter organization.
We understand there are those in our communion who do not agree with positions of the Black Lives Matter Movement as they understand them. Presbyterians have always been invited to use discernment in matters of faith and practice, understanding that “God alone is Lord of the conscience.” We have never been required to be in lockstep with matters such as these.
However, in our discernment we must be careful that we do not expect that we, a majority-white institution, may determine the path of liberation and equity for Black people, nor should we expect that we may “correct” the goals and methodologies developed by any community we seek to support. In all justice efforts, we must be led by the ones who are impacted. Black Lives Matter provides a way forward formulated for and by Black people. And we need not wait for complete agreement with every position before we act in ways that are loving, bold and (again) directed by the communities with whom we want to align.
In his Letter from a Birmingham Jail, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. spoke of the tendency of the white moderate who says, "I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I cannot agree with your methods of direct action," and “who paternalistically believes he can set the timetable for another [person]’s freedom.” This tendency denies justice to the oppressed and slows progress and wholeness for the entire community.
We also note that King and many other justice-seekers of the time were constantly accused of sedition. They were labeled as communists who sought to undermine the United States and were surveilled mercilessly. Even in the church, they were accused of being anti-Christian for disturbing the peace of the community and the God-ordained order of society. Today we hear similar claims that Black Lives Matter is “violent Marxist” and seeks to undermine the American (and Christian) way of life. While again respecting the discernment of each, we must name that these labels are not only untrue but rooted in anti-Blackness with intent to frustrate the efforts of Black people seeking justice for themselves. These things must be confronted with truth. Black Lives Matter is very clear about who and what the collective is and consistently addresses misinformation about the movement on its website. It is just and holy to hear people speak of themselves in their own words. The lived experiences of Black people are not mere matters of opinion.
I fear that the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) is getting too political and hopping onto the latest bandwagon.
Presbyterians have long been “political.” Civic engagement has always been part of the life of the church. The American Revolution and the structure of the U.S. government were heavily informed by Presbyterians. More nefariously, our articulation of the faith has also been used in service to the eradication of Indigenous people and the enslavement of African people on these lands. Prophets such as Henry Highland Garnet, Francis James Grimké, Gayraud Wilmore and Katie Geneva Cannon have all reiterated the gospel’s clarion call for liberation and engagement with the state, even when we would not listen to them. Eugene Carson Blake, stated clerk of the antecedent Presbyterian Church in the United States of America, was one of the organizers of the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom in 1963. From the Westminster Confession of Faith and the Scots Confession, to the Theological Declaration of Barmen and the Confession of Belhar, our confessions have always instructed us on our role as Christians in the public square.
But before all these things, Christians were calling Jesus “Lord,” which is a civic designation. Christianity is inherently political. The word “political” has its root in the Greek word for “people.” Jesus commanded us to love God and neighbor. Our faith can never be extricated from our concerns for people.
Affirming that Black Lives Matter is very much in line with who we are as Presbyterians, and while the gospel of Jesus Christ is political, it is not partisan. It is not in service to any one political party or leaning, but challenges all of us to have righteous relationships with one another. We believe that justice for the oppressed is not and should not be a partisan value. Justice is a gospel value, one that all who claim Jesus as Lord should hold. We may have different ideas of how to live into the value, but as Christians we are beholden to it.